Super Bowl LV: How was it for you?

—The latest instalment of a new regular column that long-time Canadian creative Craig Redmond will be writing for our Monday newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter here

There’s an old New Yorker cartoon rattling around the cobwebbed attic of my brain that accurately sums up this year’s Super Bowl ads.

It featured a guy in a suit standing at the end of his bed where his wife lay fast asleep. The punchline was that the typical ad person spends all night just promising how great the sex is going to be.

That was Super Bowl LV. America’s ad industry teased us with a premature release of mega-brand glory, but when the deed was done, our collective response seemed unanimous: “Meh.”

No doubt even the greatest creative teams in the nation were paralyzed with performance anxiety. Ladies and gents pacing around their foosball tables, agonizing over how to negotiate the treacherous neurology of a world audience traumatized by plague.

There were a few masterfully navigated exceptions.

Amazon’s Alexa reimagined in the vessel of Michael B. Jordan was flawless in its comedic genius. And the heart-coddling gentility of “Let’s Grab a Beer” from Anheuser-Busch truly rekindled our faith in the power of ad poetry.

But ironically, it was the ads that didn’t make it to the Super Bowl that garnered the most attention.

Just before super weekend, T-Mobile revealed that its guaranteed game-stopper featuring Super Bowl seniors Brady and Gronk couldn’t air during the game because it couldn’t navigate the labyrinth of NFL copyright regulations—especially with its biggest competitor, Verizon, guarding the coveted sponsorship gates.

Even more gobsmacking was Budweiser’s rediscovered chastity. The brand abstained from the annual marketing mating ritual for the first time in 37 years, instead redeploying its millions in media spend to Covid-19 vaccination support.

Of course, in both cases, one can only surmise that the unpaid media attention they received in lieu of their notable absence probably mitigated any lost viewership on Sunday.

And perhaps more importantly, they might have also spared themselves the humiliation of a “meh” response from a dissatisfied global audience on this, advertising’s most notorious one-night stand.

Craig Redmond is a Creative Leader with Palmer Stamnes and Co, an independent family of marketing communication companies.

David Brown